The Flexible Approach to Access Control: Open-Source Systems and the Cloud Provide Savings and Scalability Options

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Jeff Bransfield, vice president of business development for ACRE

Jumping into the world of business is not for the faint of heart. In addition to managing employees, overseeing finances and creating a sustainable plan, there are many other important considerations to be aware of, such as ensuring the comprehensive protection of people and assets inside the facility. Entrepreneurs are responsible for the safety of their business and those that help operate it, which requires making strategic decisions when it comes to what type of security solution will work best now and in the future. It is difficult to accurately predict business trajectory, so it is imperative to have a security system in place that allows for scaling up or down as needs change.

Manufacturers and integrators alike, especially in the access control sector, are responding to this growing concern by offering more customized solutions than ever before. From “as-a-service” offerings to the cloud, the industry understands the need for operational longevity and is continually working to improve the solutions available. When it comes to choosing an access control system that will fit a business’s unique needs both today and in the future, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Should Access Control Be in the Cloud?

Over the past few years, the availability of cloud-based security solutions has exploded, and for good reason. The benefits the cloud provides to end users are numerous, ranging from less costly installations to increased scalability potential, making it the number one contender when it comes to future-proofing a system.

The main advantage to selecting the cloud when considering the future of a business is financial. The cloud eliminates the need for a fully local system, which means there is no need to invest in an access control server, which is typically one of the more expensive parts of implementing an access control solution. Capital expenditures become a thing of the past, making system maintenance more cost effective.

In addition, cloud solutions are typically part of a subscription-based model, allowing users to pay a set monthly price for the services they receive. This ensures users are only paying for what they need at present, with the ability to change the services they subscribe to as their business grows. If a business only requires support for four doors when it launches, but experiences growth and later needs support for 10 doors, this can be done easily within the cloud in a cost-efficient way. Alternatively, if a user’s business is experiencing slower growth than anticipated, services can be reduced. This ability to scale up or down seamlessly creates cost savings and enables the flexibility necessary to adjust to an ever-changing technological world.

With no software to install and with automatic updates, the cloud ensures delivery of the most up-to-date, secure version of a system possible. Since there is no need to create an entirely new network, installations are streamlined, saving users both time and money compared to traditional access control solutions that require extensive wiring and network configuration. This further reduces installation costs while simultaneously allowing users to add more services without having to pay to rewire the entire network. No wires, no capital expenditures and a dedicated team monitoring the system positions the cloud as an ideal option in terms of affordability and scalability.

What About Open Source?

Open systems are affecting all aspects of physical security, from development to installation. In general, these systems are becoming increasingly accepted and implemented across the industry, though not all companies have recognized the benefits yet.

Open-source systems provide a level of flexibility that is unmatched by other options in the market. Instead of choosing a single manufacturer and getting locked into purchasing products and services from only that vendor, users can mix and match to receive a true “best of breed” solution. An open system means being able to use equipment from a variety of companies to customize a solution to meet unique needs. There is no cookie cutter approach to access control, and open systems enable integrators to create solutions tailored to clients.

Because of this flexibility, users can start small and add more components to the system as the company grows. With no vendor lock-in, users can find a price point they are comfortable with, while also staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. This is necessary as users grow their businesses and, in turn, need additional equipment. An open-source access control system can easily integrate with video management systems (VMS), human resources and HVAC systems to provide a full overview of a facility. From there, the system can grant and revoke credentials, schedule lighting and heating based on occupancy, and more. This integration provides situational awareness and ensures that a business is being run in the most streamlined and efficient way possible, with the ability to easily add cameras or other devices as needed.

With proprietary systems, users are forced to make up-front commitments that do not allow for changes as new technologies are developed. Open systems ensure users are at the forefront of innovation, on whatever scale works best for them, while also providing the freedom of choice to make security decisions based on functionality rather than manufacturer agreements.

Some companies have open APIs, which can be modified by integrators depending on what users are looking for. Are they interested in advanced technologies, such as facial recognition and machine learning? Open systems can accommodate that. There are minimal limitations to what can be done when using an open system, ensuring the solution that is implemented can be fully customized to user demands, with the ability to switch out equipment from different manufacturers as needs change. Gone are the days of the build once and maintain forever mindset. Open source provides users with more flexibility to choose than ever before.

How Much Does Downtime Cost?

According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. While there is variance in business operations to account for, this translates to costing companies about $140,000 to $540,000 per hour, with the average being $300,000.

Is Remote Monitoring Needed?

Remote monitoring provides both short and long-term benefits to technology investments and is especially useful for companies that do not have the resources to support full-scale IT departments.

The benefit of remote monitoring is that users have an off-site, dedicated team in place watching over the network to proactively respond to any vulnerabilities that could result in downtime. The moment a potential issue occurs, it is either taken care of automatically or, if human intervention is required, is sent to the correct person and dealt with immediately. This not only reduces downtime but could, actually, prevent the system from going down to begin with, saving the company significant money. Since users pay a set monthly price to receive remote monitoring services, there are no hidden fees incurred when an event arises. Think of remote monitoring like insurance: It is not always needed, but when it is, it pays for itself and more.

Remote monitoring can also be useful to companies that have an on-site IT team by increasing productivity and allowing users to focus on essential job functions. If employees are constantly responding to every single IT event, that leaves little time for other things to be accomplished. Remote monitoring takes the guesswork out of what tasks need human intervention, streamlining internal operations and allowing employees to use their skills elsewhere.

The benefits of remote monitoring are especially important for companies that are just starting out, as a large financial setback could force a new business to close. For companies that already have an IT team in place, remote monitoring helps users to allocate resources and respond to events in a more streamlined way. In both scenarios, remote monitoring positions businesses to be successful in their responses to threats.

There are many ways to ensure that an access control system is ready for the technological challenges of the future, and all the suggestions identified above can be combined. More importantly, all these services provide high levels of cybersecurity. It would not be practical to completely update traditional systems as new technologies are developed, but the cloud and open-source systems provide a way to do exactly that in a cost-effective manner. Combining the cloud, open capabilities and remote monitoring ensures access control systems will stay competitive in an evolving technological landscape.